In all of our writing training, we’re told how our protagonists have to be likeable. The first thing our reader will notice is our hero! If they don’t like your hero, it’s curtains for your book!
I’m reading a book right now with a hero who is a whiny angry jerk. But I’m sticking with it because I like the story and supporting characters.
It got me thinking about numerous other protagonists I disliked and still read their books. All of Stephen Lawhead’s antihero protagonists are that way. Harry Potter had book 5 where I just wanted to smack him. Twilight has Bella. I don’t think there’s ever been a Ted Dekker book where I liked his protagonist.
But often the supporting characters are awesome. The jerk hero is having an amazing adventure with amazing people. I can put up with his jerk-ness for their sake.
I want to say this is a literary device, but correct me if I’m wrong. Books like Pride and Prejudice start off by showing you the characters’ faults (Mr. Darcy is a BUTT and Lizzy isn’t much better). But then the author starts showing their good qualities, too, and by the end of the book, you love them.
Sometimes that does happen in modern books. When I meet a jerk protagonist, I hope they’ll improve and stick with them. Usually they do become slightly less odious by the end. Sometimes they don’t. But if their supporting cast and adventures are good enough, I don’t mind much.
Have you noticed yourself sticking with a book, not because you like the hero, but because the story is compelling? Who’s the last hero you remember not liking much at the beginning?